It was a rather short four day work week, thanks to good ol’ Queen Victoria. Apparently, Victoria Day is not only a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday, but also the reigning Monarch’s birthday. Interestingly enough, by royal proclaimation Canada has historically changed the “official birthday in Canada” of a reigning monarch to align with Victoria Day. I guess when you’re the Queen you’re allowed to change even your birthday.
This weekend was rather relaxing. Between attempts at finishing a course project for a grad school course (now three weeks overdue … and counting), I managed to watch a substantial amount of television. Including a couple of documentaries show on CBC’s The Passionate Eye: Bowling for Columbine and Journeys With George. Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine is as controversial as it is witty, and much of the kerfuffle has been well discussed, argued, rebutted, and beaten to death by the media. Thus, I have very few words to spare on this documentary. As a Canadian, it should be obvious to which side of the controversy I find myself on.
Journeys with George is a winner. The film is Alexandra Pelosi’s self-proclaimed “home video” of her year on the campaign trail with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush’s bid for the Republican Candidacy and ultimately the White House. It’s a remarkable piece, providing an insight into political journalism, the incredulity of the campaign trail and rallies, the political shenanigans between a candidate and his or her press pack, and the surrealism of two very different individuals who just happen to be trapped on the same plane as a result of their goals and inspirations, not much unlike one of my favourites, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Read on for a short review.
Pelosi was an NBC news producer assigned to tail Bush, politically not her favourite person in the world (her mother is House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, after all). This induces her to spend months in a rickety old airplane which she notes is chartered to fly either convicts or political journalists, force-fed turkey sandwiches, which she gleefully films with her digital camcorder.
A few weeks into the trip, she captures cowboy Bush on camera in a candid exchange. Astounded, she realizes that this is much more than a home video. The flim goes on to capture many moments between Bush and Pelosi: Bush’s take on her relationship with “Newsweek Man”, political schtick from Bush as he tries to obtain Pelosi’s vote in the California primary, Bush admonishing Pelosi for an aggressive question asked at a press conference, and Bush turning the camera on her for a change (for which Pelosi rightfully creditted Bush for cinematography in her film credits).
I’ve never been a fan of George Dubya, not agreeing with his values or policies, but the film does humanize him. It portrays him as a charming cowboy, eager to discuss his ranch, or share a moment with a travelling family of reporters, non-alcoholic beer in hand. It’s difficult to what degree the personality is genuine, or just a political game to befriend the pack of journalists — the more inroads, the less political criticism produced by said journalists. Who knows? Regardless, politics aside, the film is entertaining, providing a view unique and likely never again repeatable.